Rector’s Newsletter Article for November, 2011

“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”  2 Corinthians 1:5

Marianne is home! Thanks be to God! Many of you know that my wife Marianne recently had lower back surgery to restore lost function to her legs. This operation came just weeks after she had cataract surgery. In between these surgeries I had surgery on my left hand. When we made the arrangements earlier in the year, our thinking was that we would like to be fully operational by the time the weather is really cold and nasty. The jury is still out on whether we made the right calculation. Marianne’s eye is almost completely healed, and my hand is proceeding apace.

But, the surgery on Marianne’s back is of a wholly different nature and scope. Her level of pain, and the expected recovery time, is much greater. The surgeon told me in the waiting room afterward that the operation went well, but that Marianne would experience a very high degree of pain in the coming days. According to Marianne, he wasn’t exaggerating!

The new patient pavilion at St. Peter’s Hospital includes a very large surgical waiting area. Usually patients spend about two hours in “recovery” before being transferred to a hospital room. For some reason Marianne didn’t get to her room in the main hospital building for over four hours! By the time she was moved, the waiting area had cleared out and there were only two people left – myself, and a woman waiting for her husband.

The next day I ran into the same woman again in the hallway outside Marianne’s room. After exchanging pleasantries, she shared with me that her husband had decided to come in to have a quick “in-and-out” hip replacement. During his recovery something went wrong with the new hip and because of the excruciating pain, he began to put so much weight on his other “good” hip that he managed to break that one. So, here he was now back in the hospital getting the first hip replacement repaired, but also having an entire replacement of his other hip! The woman standing before me, shaking her head really didn’t think it was funny – it was more that the situation was so absurd that she couldn’t believe it was all actually happening.

I saw the woman one more time in the hospital that week. She was at a table with a friend, on the far side of the food court. We waved to each other as people who had shared a common experience. We both had sat for hours in the same waiting room while our loved ones underwent surgery. We both were now attending to our spouses at the beginning of a long recovery. With a simple wave of a hand we were acknowledging each to the other that even though we can’t always make sense of what life dishes out, we still want more of it. We still want to go forward with our lives – she, to walk again with her husband; me, to walk with Marianne.

I have struggled, as do most people who have lived a bit, with the meaning of suffering.  I have come to an understanding (and in trusting to a loving God) that evil, pain, and suffering are simply facts of life. I trust that God knows best. But I do notice now how precious the good times are, especially as I become more and more aware of how little we can count on a safe and pain-free existence. I feel somewhat foolish thinking back on how much of my life I spent expecting, and counting on, things to go well. Oh well, as Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.”

I was driving today to one more medical appointment while listening to the country music station. The song I heard lifted my spirits. Here it is. It’s about a man who just learned he had a terminal illness.

How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?

Man whatcha do?

An’ he said: “I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,

“I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.

“And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,

“And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”

An’ he said: “Some day, I hope you get the chance,

“To live like you were dyin’.”

He said “I was finally the husband,

“That most the time I wasn’t.

“An’ I became a friend a friend would like to have.

“And all of a sudden goin’ fishin’,

“Wasn’t such an imposition,

“And I went three times that year I lost my Dad.

“Well, I finally read the Good Book,

“And I took a good long hard look,

“At what I’d do if I could do it all again,

“And then:

“I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,

“I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.

“And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,

“And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”

An’ he said: “Some day, I hope you get the chance,

“To live like you were dyin’.”

Like tomorrow was a gift,

And you got eternity,

To think about what you’d do with it.

An’ what did you do with it?

An’ what can I do with it?

An’ what would I do with it?

Blessings, Michael+

*Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying


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